No need for phony religious excuses

The arrival of the Moslem holy month of Ramadan, we are told by some pundits and Islamic worthies, must give us pause in the war against the ruling dictatorship of Afghanistan.

This, we are instructed, is a necessity for us to demonstrate that we are sufficiently attuned to certain Muslim sensitivities. At the very least, these voices inform us, we must be prepared to accept some delay in pressing hostilities for this period.


As usual, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been a model of clarity on this point.

"History is replete with instances where Muslim nations have fought among themselves or with other countries during various important holy days for their religion, and it has not inhibited them historically," he said last week.

Rumsfeld is correct. The Moslem countries of Egypt and Syria started the 1973 war against Israel during Ramadan. Also, during the Afghanistan civil war, there was no tradition of halting the war effort.

Indeed, the Taliban regime itself hasn't observed the holy month.

Moreover, there are practical reasons why no delay is tolerable. Such a delay would cost the U.S. anti-terrorist effort considerable momentum at a critical period. By the end of Ramadan, the harsh Afghan winter will have set in, closing key passes through the mountains and limiting both air and ground operations.

This will have to be one of those things where our leaders just suck it up and persevere, as our military forces are doing so magnificently.

It is becoming increasingly clear that this will be a long and difficult campaign that will have to include ground forces. We will have to make it clear that we are in it for the long haul and can't be dissuaded.

Proceed with all due dispatch.